While we were waiting for Mass to start this morning, I was reading the reflection on St. Thomas Becket from The Liturgical Year by Dom Gueranger. This series was originally published in the 1800’s but the timeliness of his reflection and the warning it contains, especially in light of the new abortion regulations in the new health care law, are worth some reflection.
But beyond the debt that every Christian has , of shedding his blood rather than denying his Faith, that is, of allowing no threats or dangers to make him disown the sacred ties which unite him to the Church, and through her to Jesus Christ; beyond this, Pastors have another debt to pay, which is that of defending the liberty of the Church. To Kings and Rulers, and, in general to all diplomatists and politicians, there are few expressions so unwelcome as this of the liberty of the Church; with them it means a sort of conspiracy…
She sanctions the noble maxim of St. Anselm, one of St. Thomas’s predecessors in the See of Canterbury: Nothing does God love so much in this world as the liberty of his Church; and the Apostolic See declares by the mouth of Pius VIII, in the nineteenth century, the very same doctrine she would have taught by St. Gregory VII, in the eleventh century: The Church, the spotless Spouse of Jesus Christ the immaculate Lamb, is by God’s appointment Free, and subject to no earthly power.
But in what does this sacred liberty consist? It consists in the Church’s absolute independence of every secular power in the ministry of the Word of God, which she is bound to preach in season and out of season, as St. Paul says, to all mankind, without distinction of nation or race or age or sex: in the administration of the Sacraments, to which she must invite all men without exception, in order to the world’s salvation: in the practice, free from all human control, of the Councels, as well as the Precepts, of the Gospel: in the unobstructed intercommunication of the several degrees of her sacred hierarchy: in the publication and application of her decrees and ordinances in matters of discipline: in the maintenance and development of the Institutions she has founded: in holding and governing her temporal patrimony: and lastly in the defense of those privileges which have been adjudged to her by the civil authority itself, in order that her ministry of peace and charity might be unembarrassed and respected.
Such is the Liberty of the Church. It is the bulwark of the Sanctuary. Every breach there imperils the Hierarchy, and even the very Faith. A Bishop may not flee, as the hireling, nor hold his peace, like those dumb dogs of which the Prophet Isaias speaks, and which are not able to bark. He is the Watchman of Israel: he is a traitor if he first lets the enemy enter the citadel, and then, but only then, gives the alarm and risks his person and his life. The obligation of laying down his life for his flock begins to be in force at the enemy’s first attack upon the very outposts of the City, which is only safe when they are strongly guarded…
The world is hard to teach, else it would have long since learned this truth, that a Christian people can never see with indifference a pastor put to death for fidelity to his charge; and that a government that dares to make a martyr will pay dearly for the crime. Modern diplomacy has learned the secret; experience has given it the instinctive craft of waging war against the liberty of the Church with less violence and more intrigue – the intrigue of enslaving her by political administration. It was this crafty diplomacy which forged the chains wherewith so many churches are now shackled, and which, be they ever so gilded, are insupportable. There is but one way to unlink such fetters – to break them. He that breaks them will be great in the Church of heaven and earth, for he must be a martyr: he will not have to fight with the sword, or be a political agitator, but simply to resist the plotters against the liberty of the Spouse of Christ, and suffer patiently whatever may be said or done against him.
As we approach the full implementation of the HHS abortion-coerced mandates and see that it is possible that such requirements may remain the law of the land and forced on us all, there are some hard things we as individual Catholics will need to consider and which I had hoped our bishops would have done more to address leading up to the election.
- The bishops have repeatedly declared that paying for insurance under the new law is immoral and they won’t do it because of the contraception and abortion coverage requirements.
- By not paying they will be forced to pay fines that will be used for the same purpose and probably bankrupt hospitals and schools. Hobby Lobby isn’t backing down from their refusal to obey the law could be facing fines of 1.4 million dollars a day for refusing to compromise their Christian principles.
- We as individuals are facing the same issue as the bishops – either voluntarily sacrifice principles and buy insurance or be forced to pay for it through fines. Since the fines are being used for the same purpose, how can we as individuals pay them?
The bishops really need to address these issues because frankly, it looks like we as Catholics and any other religious people who believe that abortion is evil will be facing jail time for refusing to comply with this law either through voluntary or forced means.
It’s academic to speculate whether or not bishops will be arrested or hospitals and schools will be forced to shut down for refusing to comply with the law. It’s another thing entirely to consider the possibility that as a father I may be faced with the choice of going to jail or sacrificing principles over a law that is supposedly about providing health care.